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What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance plan for people who are age 65 or older. People who are disabled or have permanent kidney failure can get Medicare at any age. Medicare has four parts—A, B, C, and D.

Part A (hospital insurance) is free for insured people and helps pay for inpatient hospital care and certain followup services. If you’re eligible, you should apply for Part A in the three months before you turn age 65, even if you’re covered by other health insurance.

The other three parts of Medicare require premium payments, and if you don’t enroll when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have coverage. Also, you may have to wait to enroll, which will delay coverage:

• Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for doctors’ services, outpatient hospital care, and other medical services; • Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) are available in many areas. People with Parts A and B can choose to receive all of their health care services through a private insurance company approved by Medicare; and • Part D (Prescription drug coverage) is available to everyone with Medicare. Private companies provide this coverage and you choose the Medicare drug plan

For more information, ask for Medicare (Publication No. 05-10043), or go online to

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